Canon 1DX Mark ii Review – Canon’s Flagship Full-Frame Camera, Big Fast and Accurate

Canon 1DX Mark ii Review – Canon’s Flagship Full-Frame Camera, Big Fast and Accurate

In compiling this Canon 1D X Mark ii review I’m going to make a calculated assumption  –  if you are reading this with any serious intent you already know what you want in a camera!

Something exceptional in terms of build and image quality, fast and accurate focusing, awesome frame burst, quick responding etc. etc., the list goes on and on.

Let’s get to it – this should be a lot of fun.

While the key specs don’t tell half the story let’s start there anyway.

Key Specifications

Sensor Size:
Sensor Type:
Megapixels:
Built-in Processor:
ISO Range:
Focus Points:
Body:
Weight:
External Dimensions:
Weather Sealed:
Touchscreen:

Articulated Screen:
Shutter Speeds:
Shutter Life:
Max Frame Rate:
Battery:
Battery Capacity:
Image Quality:

Focusing:

Memory Cards:

GPS:
WiFi:
Video:

Price:

Full Frame – 35.9 x 23.9mm
CMOS
20.2
Dual DIGIC 6+ Processors
100 – 51,200 (expandable to 50 – 409,600)
61 Points, 41 cross-type points even in very low light
Magnesium Alloy Body Cover
1340 g (47.3 oz/2.95 lbs) 
167.6 x 158.0 x 82.8 mm
6.6 x 6.22 x 3.26 inches
Yes
Yes – 1,620,000 dots
No
30 secs – 1/8000th
400,000
14 fps (Incredible huh?)
LP-E19 (Supplied with purchase), LP-E4N and LP-E4 
1210 photos
JPEG: 10 compression options
RAW: RAW, M-RAW, S-RAW 
CMOS AF with Face Detection and Tracking AF, Movie Servo AF
Manual Focus.
1 x Cfast 2.0
1 x Compact Flash type 1
Yes
Wi-Fi via optional WFT-E8 or WFT-E6 
4k 60P

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Body, Menus and Controls - big hands needed ...

OK maybe not huge hands but as a male I have small hands (mine are probably equal to medium sized lady’s hands but definitely small for a man).

With outer dimensions of 6.6 X  6.2″  the camera felt huge to me. When I held it in front of my face it felt like a 52″ TV but I soon got used to that.

My own experience with the Canon 1DX Mark ii is limited to a couple of weekends of test-shooting I did while working in a camera shop. The idea was to familiarise myself with the “beast”, as I nicknamed it, in order to answer potential customer questions.

Two weekends is not enough to come to terms with the full capabilities of this amazing camera.

On unboxing The Beast the first thing I did while charging the battery was consult the manual – and there is a lot to consult.  The hour and a half it took to fully charge the battery was over before I had even really got started.

Suffice to say I couldn’t wait to get out and test it so decided to forego the manual for some practical fun (you can read the manual at night – right?)

Big But Extremely Fast - and personal

The most amazing thing about the Canon 1DX Mk ii is how much can be personalised so that your shooting time is not spent digging around in menus. 

What do I mean by this?
With three personalised settings C1, C2 and C3 you can pre-set all your settings for different genres. 

For example I had:

  • C1 on my sport settings (I was photographing windsurfers in some pretty rough and windy conditions).
  • C2 was set to Landscape and 
  • C3 for street photography

Ordinarily I would set at least one of those to studio portraits (as this is what I do most of) but on the test weekends I was not studio bound.

The real beauty of these settings is that they can be switched totally on the fly without taking your eye off the viewfinder simply by using the Mf-N button to toggle between them.

The entire camera is designed for ease of use and speed of functionality once you get used to it and things set-up.  I can fully understand why hard and fast working professionals shooting outdoor active scenes love this camera.

At 14 fps I got some incredible action shots of windsurfers and regret not hanging on to some of them – instead I gave the cards to the boss on Monday and never thought to keep a few of the best ones. At the time I didn’t have the space or the software to download them on to my computer.  They are huge files, they need to be to provide the sort of detail this camera captures.

The Canon EOS 1DX Mark II - in the real world

The real world is what it is all about and to be honest this camera is exclusive.

In my humble opinion it is aimed at the hard working and dedicated professional who wants the Rolls Royce of cameras – and that is what this camera is, or at least was when it first came out. 

Why I say “was” – the last few months of 2018 has seen the introduction of both Canon and Nikon into the full-frame mirrorless market.  For a few years now Sony has dominated this market and I have to wonder if the smaller mirrorless bodies are the way ahead for the professionals – especially now that all that money in vested in their lens collections can be used.

Time will tell but the Canon 1DX Mk ii is a beautifully engineered camera with a finish and capabilities way above the every day consumer’s needs.

  • It has absolutely amazing computing built in that makes it possible to shoot at 14 fps and still have every shot correctly exposed and in focus – no misses with this camera. The dual processors make sure of that.
  • The super bright LCD which is wonderful for those bright outdoor days when the screen is hard to see.
  • The weather sealing is excellent and when coupled with the camera’s ability to withstand some of the hardest knocks makes it a great action camera. But don’t go dropping it off a building or dunking it in the sea as it wasn’t made for that.
  • OK so you might not need a frame rate of 14fps but the ultra-fast, super intelligent auto focusing system makes it a joy to shoot any genre.
  • The outstanding face recognition will see through all sorts of distractions in an instant and auto focus for you.  I tried it on the beach with group shots and was amazed at the instant response and accuracy. I can imagine this would be a top feature and benefit for wedding photographers.
  • For all the computing power, speed, bright LCD and other benefits a battery that can take as many as 1200 photos without needing to be recharged or changed is just unbelievable.  Well done Canon.
  • The built in low-pass filter negates the affect of flickering light producing images that are true to life with no colour distortion.
Canon 1DX Mark ii

The top deck of the camera (pictured above) provides quick access to many of the settings that can be changed on the fly – no need to remove your eye from the viewfinder.

Potraiture - careful though ... danger lurks!

This is a magnificent camera for portraiture work and my caution is there because it may be too sharp – I’ll explain in a minute.

With the incredible face recognition and fast auto focusing the 1DX Mk ii has you will struggle to find a camera to match.

It is particularly useful for group shots.  Provided you have selected the correct depth of field the dual processors will instantly focus on any number of faces within the cross point range. 

If you’re looking at this camera I take it you know how to select the correct ISO to ensure the required depth of field.   Just checking.  🙂

Earlier on I said that there is the possibility that the camera is too sharp.

Having done a lot of glamour portraits 100% of my female clients do not want extreme detail and the Canon 1DX Mk ii will show every pore and every wrinkle.  Of course a lot of this can be softened in camera (again with the correct depth of field) and in post-processing. Good post processing skills are essential for glamour photography.

But there is an extremely positive side to this ultra sharpness that can be found in male or older subject’s faces that have a lot of character.  By processing your images to highlight this detail you can produce images that will have others gasping at your skill.

The Canon 1DX Mark iii will bring out extreme detail which looks very good in male portraits

All in all the Canon 1DX Mk ii (that’s getting a bit of a mouthful) will surpass any high expectations you have for portrait work and with the custom settings you can be sure of consistency.

For Landscape - brilliant once you get there.

You’re going to struggle to find a better camera for landscape photography, you’re also going to struggle to find a heavier one!

Dedicated landscape photographer’s will love the weather sealing on this big boy!  It is superb and can take a lot of weather punishment.

It is ideal for time-lapse photography where the camera may be out in the open in inclement weather for extended lengths of time and No I don’t know what to do about rain or snow drops on the lens but suggest some sort of overhead cover for these shots.

Time-lapse photography can involve thousands of shots and the Canon 1DX Mk ii has an edge on most in that:

  • The battery can take around 1200 photos before requiring replacing or recharging. Pro tip – buy spare batteries, you and I both know that your spare battery will die when you least one it too.  Get two spares.
  • With an expected shutter life of 400,000 clicks can you think of a better camera for time-lapse photography?  I certainly can’t.

And the cherry on the top will be found in the detail, the dynamic range and the low light capabilities. 

I’ve heard it (1DX Mk ii) described as “so sharp its dangerous!’ – while dangerous it may be for glamour portraits the sharpness for landscapes is exactly what you want but …

The one negative (with a potential solution) …

If you’re going to be tramping to the top of Mount Everest and your Sherpa refuses to carry your gear the Canon 1DX Mk ii is going to spoil the view when you first reach the summit.  Sure you’ll enjoy the photos afterwards but you really want to enjoy the entire trip and hiking endless miles with this beast and a sturdy tripod and lenses to match will be exhausting – just saying.

An alternative is to get the more versatile Canon 5D Mk iv  – definitely something worth considering in my opinion.

The Canon 1DX Mark ii is excellent for landscape photography

For landscapes I guess it comes down to a choice of carrying the beast around versus something half the weight that can do the job equally as good such as the Canon 5D Mk iv

Tough call indeed

Action and Sports - Including Wildlife

This I believe is where the Canon 1DX Mk ii excels and what it was designed to do!

Sports, action, wildlife, adrenalin pumping photography with a camera that captures time after time without a hitch.

Sports and action pros, people that are in the ring (up-close and personal) that rely on their photos for a living have this to say:

  • “This is the camera you need if you want to shoot a job like this. It has a 14 frame per second burst rate, you have crazy fast autofocus which works all the time and the files are amazing. This is the only camera I would choose.” Samo Vidic
  • “If you really want to use the fastest autofocus and continuous shooting speeds currently available to achieve new levels of creativity, then you are going to have a great time with this camera. Or if you want to push what can be done at high ISO and with more exposure latitude. It’s a complete package.For me, the biggest different between EOS-1D X cameras and other DSLRs has always been responsiveness. The camera feels more alive in your hands, and that suits the way I work. It’s become like an extension of my thinking in a way. Very instinctive to use.” – Richard Walch

The superlatives go on and on from these and other top professionals – all experts in heir field of work. 

Canon 1DX Mk ii high speed lacrosse action shot

You get the odd bad review:

  • “Very poor workman ship from the Canon team, had to have it fixed and replaced twice” – Marko 

Sometimes you get a lemon – it happens (but only very occasionally and then it gets sorted out straight away).

The Canon 1DX Mark ii Video - 40/60 and 4K

I need to be very honest here and admit to not being an experienced videographer.

I do know that being able to shoot at 40 and 60 frames per second in 4K is quite phenomenal.

But rather than have me rambling on about something I know nothing let me hand you over to an expert and a Canon Ambassador in the video below.

I think you’ll admit that if the 1DX Mk ii can shoot in these conditions it will handle anything you can throw at it.

Enjoy!

Aren’t those whales beautiful.  

After watching this I spent the next 20 minutes watching similar videos – you tube can be so entertaining enlightening and distracting!

Conclusion

What more can I say about the Canon 1DX Mark ii?

Not much but I would like to mention that it may well be due for phasing out, upgrading (is that even possible?) in 2019 if for no reason other than the advancement in full frame mirrorless cameras.  A field that had has until recently been dominated by Sony but one that both Canon and Nikon have joined.

Exciting times lie ahead.

Pros

Cons

  • Everything about this camera is great
  • Fast, accurate and continuous AF 
  • Dual processors
  • 14 fps
  • Exceptional low light capabilities
  • Fast and responsive
  • Built like a tank – drives like a Rolls Royce
  • 400,000 Shutter life!
  • Incredible dynamic range providing unreal detail
  • Heavy, real heavy
  • Huge files
  • Old technology (hard to believe)

Final Word

Recommended For

  • Professionals 
  • Sports, action and wildlife
  • Landscape
  • Oh what the heck – most any genre

Not Recommended For

  • Newbies
  • Anyone on a tight budget

That about rounds up this review of the Canon 1DX Mark ii, I hope you found it interesting and that it answered your questions.

Please let me know your thoughts on the Canon 1DX Mk ii – in particularly your thoughts on what the future holds for this ground-breaking camera.

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